Although none of us know exactly when we will take our last breath, we have a great deal of control over what we choose to do with the time we have. I spent many years working at Hospice with those who are dying and grieving and I heard many people express three main regrets on their death beds.
First, they fretted about unfinished business, or unresolved relationships. Secondly, they regretted not having found the work they wanted to do that fed their soul, doing work that mattered and matched well with their skills and interests, having compromised for a good enough job for the benefits, money and success. Thirdly, they spoke about lifestyle whereas many said “I could have worked less, enjoyed my life and family more.” I suggest there’s no need to die or live in this manner especially when there are choices.
Today, approximately 150,000 people around the world will die. There are many different reasons for these deaths, but each died their death as they must. Some died in surrender with their minds open and their hearts at peace while others died in confusion, suffering from a life that remained unlived.
Often we fail to live our lives to the fullest because we imagine that there is an infinite amount of time and so we continue to postpone living a fully conscious and authentic life.
Our fear or denial of death is deeply repressed and usually unconscious. It typically only surfaces when we are directly confronted with its immensity; when a loved one dies or when we ourselves are challenged with illness, old age or a deep crisis; situations that make us aware of impermanence and the insecurity of life on the physical plane, because nobody is an exception from this.
The denial of death no matter what your age is a hindrance to being present and open to change because the mind says, “I’ll do it later.” In this way, denial of death is, in fact, denial of life.
I see too many people putting off starting a business, traveling, running that marathon, getting a degree, changing careers or jobs or whatever is on that bucket list waiting for that perfect time to do it. There is no perfect time. Yes, there may be a better time, but nothing is perfect. If you keeping putting off what is most important to you then eventually time will run out for many reasons including death.
Knowing there is an ending can transform the quality and vision of your life. Your life is similar to the story in a book or movie with a beginning, middle and end. There are many chapters and scenes where the action takes place and the characters evolve, which correspond to your life. Think about writing your story. What do you want the ending to be and what do you want the “your” character to experience throughout?
It is never too early to create that bucket list of what you want to do and experience. Everything we want is about a feeling or an emotion, whether it is a product we buy or receive, an achievement, visiting a foreign country, landing a new job or starting a new relationship. It is not the product or the thing itself. What we all truly want are the good feelings, the satisfaction, being liked or loved.
So, in living life more fully right now, what can you do to bring about these good feelings? It is being more fully present in every moment and allowing yourself to feel the feelings of doing so.
I started being more present when I was a teenager which is highly unusual. When I was having a good time I would stop, observe and absorb all that was happening and let those moments burn into my memory. I was very conscious about doing this. My friends thought I was weird and I told them I was treasuring our good times together. Even now, I still remember those experiences from my feelings of allowing myself to be so present.
After you create that bucket list plan to do, be and experience sooner rather than later. As you live each day, stop, observe, feel and absorb. Be present with yourself, your friends and your family. You will never get this moment or this day again.
Instead of working late every night or on the weekends make a date with yourself, your family, your dog, and your partner or friends to enjoy and spend quality time together. You will feel good and be energized by the connection. You will be living more in the now doing what truly matters. In the end no one regrets not working harder or longer for their employer. Let your final chapter be filled with very few regrets and a lifetime of precious present moments of joy.